Australia’s Treasury Wine Estates has filed legal proceedings against Rush Rich wine, alleging trade mark infringements that exploit TWE’s Penfolds brand, including the unauthorized use of the BEN FU trade mark (the Chinese transliteration of ‘Penfolds’). The legal action was filed in the Federal Court of Australia and comes a year after TWI won a legal battle for the rights to BEN FU.
“We have become aware of a number of copycat operators that are taking illegal and unfair advantage of the success of iconic brands such as Penfolds,” said TWE chief executive Michael Clarke. “The infringing products and misleading claims these operators are making, and the association they falsely claim to have with our brands are unconscionable. We are putting on notice any bad faith operators in Australia – and anyone working with these operators – that this exploitation will not be tolerated.”
It is believed that the wine used in bottles of Rush Rich has been sourced and bottled through bulk wine suppliers and third-party bottlers in South Australia, and then exported under labels that mimic the look and feel of Penfolds.
Clarke went on to say that the “predatory behaviour of sophisticated copycat operators,” was bad for consumers and “bad for the Australian wine industry”.
Penfolds – and its flagship Grange – have been instrumental in opening the door to China for other Australian producers. Ian Ford, the former owner of Summergate distributors in China, told Wine2wine last year that Australia’s success in entering the Chinese wine market had been partly due to the work done by Penfolds, as the market leader.
“Over recent years, the Australian wine industry has enjoyed huge success in overseas markets. This success relies on the integrity and quality of our wine – a reputation that is put at risk by copycat wines being exported from Australia,” said Tony Battaglene, chief executive of the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia.
TWE has had to be vigilant about the theft of its brand equity. In January 2017, it won a landmark case in the Beijing People’s Court in China that supported the company’s lawful right to use and market the BEN FU trademark in China.